by Amber Hall
reviewed on PC
THE METAPHORICAL PARASITE
When I started Hob, the first thing I noticed was how bright and colorful the world around my character was. I followed a robot friend into this world, ready to explore the lush environments, only to find that not everything was safe in this world. A parasitic infection of sorts has spread over parts of the land, creating dastardly creatures and even spreading the infection further. It was sad to see such a beautiful place brought down by this parasite, almost as sad as the in-game disease becoming a metaphor for my experience playing Hob.
It’s easy to forget Hob’s issues looking at just the graphics. Hob is a pretty game and it knows it, using its camera to get scenic angles at every opportunity. The environments are usually bright and colorful, but it’s just as pretty to look at when an area is dark and eerie. There’s a large amount of different environments to explore and each place can be changed and explored anew as you unlock different areas of Hob’s modular map. But then the metaphorical infection hits; those little issues in Hob that bring an otherwise great game down. The camera is locked in place, and in most instances this doesn’t hinder my experience. However, there were a few times where the camera just wasn’t where I wanted it. The grapple mechanic in Hob requires the camera to have the grapple location in view and there were times where getting this to happen was a hassle. Other times, the camera made jumps hard to gauge because of the angle it was locked at. This made some gaps look crossable until I tried a few times and died over and over again.
THE OMNIPRESENT METAPHOR
Hob is a puzzle platformer, and when it does these aspects right, it really nails it. Jumping large gaps and only narrowly making it to the other side feels especially satisfying when it leads to some secret item you had been trying to figure out how to reach. The puzzles in Hob are simple but making all the pieces come together make you feel like you’ve accomplished something impressive. But the metaphorical infection is omnipresent and almost no aspect of Hob is safe. Jumping is the most important element in platforming games, and yet my character always wanted to jump just slightly too far in one direction and, sometimes, in a different direction entirely. I died more times from this issue than combat and it really began to strain my experience of the game .
Death is forgiving in Hob in that progress isn’t lost in the way of items collected or enemies defeated. However, respawning in Hob takes a long time and the checkpoints can sometimes be inconveniently far away from where you died. Backtracking is usually easy enough since most enemies don’t respawn and sometimes there are shortcuts that can be opened to quickly reach where you had been before. But running through the parts I had already done felt like a chore, especially if my death was less my fault and more to do with Hob’s wonky platforming mechanics.
Beautiful graphics, great soundtrack, engaging combat, satisfying platforming (when it works).
Inaccurate platforming in a platformer, vague rather than ambiguous, lack of guidance.